Serial groper, convicted 10 times, inspires legislation for tougher penalties


Lonnie Sturdivant has been convicted ten times of groping women in public.

Prosecutors and judges say they've done everything the law will allow, but that still hasn't stopped him.

An Ohio lawmaker says it's time for the state to step in.

Again and again, security cameras have captured Lonnie Sturdivant sitting next to women he doesn't know in public places and sliding his hand between their backside and their seat. Christy West is one of those women.

"I was the tenth known victim of a serial groper," West told lawmakers Tuesday at the Ohio Statehouse.

In March 2016, she was sitting in a coffee shop inside Grant Medical Center when Sturdivant grabbed her.

"This was creepy. This was planned. He sat there next to me, and I wonder what was going through his head. How long had he been sitting there and planning to touch me?"

She was surprised not only by the assault but how much it affected her.

"I started sobbing like a baby. I felt so childish for how much I was crying. I'm not much of a crier, and I couldn't stop crying."

It had only been five days since Sturdivant's release from jail for assaulting another woman the same way.

He's groped women in a Panera restaurant, in a library at Columbus State, on COTA buses.

Most recently, two days after his release from jail in September, he did the same to two different women at Ohio State.

So why can't Sturdivant be stopped?

Under Ohio law, his crime is sexual imposition, a misdemeanor carrying a maximum possible sentence of six months, no matter how many times he does it.

Ohio State Representative Jim Hughes says that needs to change.

"That's just not acceptable," Hughes said. "Unfortunately we're going to have to have a little bigger hammer to teach him- this behavior, we're not going to allow in the state of Ohio."

After seeing 10tv's coverage of Sturdivant, Hughes drafted legislation that would the double the possible jail time after the third conviction.

"At this point in time, we need to protect the public," he said. "The best way to do that, it would be up to a year on every instance he does this."

A year after her assault, Christy West still lives with worry, which is why she came forward Tuesday.

"I'm here for my daughter- for everyone else's daughter. Every female out there is a daughter," she said. "I definitely want to make a change, so this doesn't happen to anybody else."

House Bill 96 is currently in the House Criminal Justice Committee.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, the Ohio Domestic Violence Network, and the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence support its passage.

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